Hospital Demands Signed Confidentiality Agreement Before Talking
I heard from a physician friend recently who lost his mother in an East Coast hospital. My doctor friend believes there were several medical errors committed during the care of his mom. He wrote a detailed letter listing his concerns and asking for specific responses. The doctor also asked to be involved in the investigation, and to meet with senior leadership of the hospital. After three months of phone calls, voicemails, and e-mails, the hospital finally agreed to meet....but only if the physician friend signed a confidentiality agreement! My doctor friend wrote back to the hospital saying he would not sign the confidentiality agreement simply to receive information he was legally and ethically entitled to. The hospital has never responded. The friend has now filed complaints with the regulatory authorities, and is in the process of pursing litigation. My doctor friend believes in disclosure now more than ever....he told me if the hospital had only been transparent, open, and accountable he wouldn't be pursuing litigation and filing complaints.
First, why would anyone wait three months to meet with this family? We want to stay connected or quickly get re-connected with families post-event. If you are not meeting with your families, who is? A lawyer? A regulator? A member of the media? Or all of the above?
Second, when communicating with patients and families post-event, don't play games and or put pre-conditions on anything. Surefire way to destroy trust. We've told our readers time and time again to welcome plaintiff's attorneys, tape recorders, and note pads. In fact, we've told you to just assume the smart phone in the woman's purse is recording every word, and the "brother" at the end of the table is actually a lawyer. You should be happy for everyone to see and record your ethics in action.
Making a family sign a confidentiality agreement will destroy the trust you are trying to re-build. Don't do it. If your doctors, nurses, or lawyers are nervous about disclosure meetings, then YOU need to help them feel comfortable. Explain how disclosure works, provide training, role plays, etc, and in the end if a particular team member is still not comfortable he/she probably shouldn't go to the meeting. Send someone else. But it's not the job of the patient or family to get your side comfortable by signing a confidentiality agreement. That's just wrong.